What I Read This Summer

by Jennifer Luitwieler

(Andi’s Note – Jen mentioned that she might want to give her grade and homeroom teacher’s name here, but since we’d both be in like 32nd grade and our homeroom teachers are, well, ourselves, we decided to cut that.)

My first priority was to read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. The last time I had read it, I was in seventh grade, with an overactive imagination fueled by the after school promise of Days of Our Lives and the SuzyQ’s I had so responsibly eaten for lunch. The school bus dropped us at the bottom of a gentle grade, at the apex of which sat the first house on Rivercrest Drive.

Everyone knew the house was occupied, but the shades were always drawn, the cars always slipped into and out of the garage so that the drivers remained hidden. I was convinced that Boo Radley, an important character for To Kill a Mockingbird, lifted the shades on the windows of that house as I walked by, scared witless of his scissor-wielding mystery. So, I was, I will admit, intimidated to read the book again. I had forgotten what an incredible masterpiece it was; I only remembered my fear.

Reading it as an adult, as with most books, provides the context of a life well into being lived. So I understood the subtexts and the secrets. I knew that Scout was a pest of a kid, but goodhearted. I knew that Atticus was to be trusted, and Aunt Alexandra was ripe for a learning. When I finished the book, at the edge of our neighborhood swimming pool while children splashed around me, I felt I had never read a more perfect last two pages of a book in my entire life. I want you to read it. Read it slowly. Read it like you would taste a meal that has been crafted rather than slapped together. I mean it. Go forth and read it.

I reread my perennial friend, Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen is on par, in my opinion, with Oscar Wilde, for social satire. I will admit to being a sucker for the romance, but I will defend this book as more than just happily-ever-after. Austen’s characters are three dimensional and entirely relatable, by virtue of her apt and concise descriptions. If you want to know how to draw characters, she is a good place to start.

Since Andi won’t give me 10,000 words to tell you charming stories about how I feel about every book in the universe:

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. People have polarizing opinions of Kingsolver. I find her funny, sharp and open to multicultural perspectives. This book made me laugh, but it also made me reflect on mother/daughter relationships, (something I hope I tackled in my first novel) and what identity means. It set in parts in Tahlequah, Oklahoma which is not far from where I live. I didn’t know people wrote about Oklahoma.

Forge, by Laure Halse Anderson. Anderson is a master YA historical fiction writer who does not dumb down her books for her audience. Forge is the sequel to Chains.

Booth’s Sister, by Jane Singer was … weird. It’s about John Wilkes Booth’s sister and their unconventional upbringing, and a fictionalized guess as to how she was involved in the assassination of President Lincoln. It was free on Kindle. What can I say?

My friend Amanda Lynch released Anabel Unraveled. She is a fun writer, with an ear for tense relationships, and Anabel 2 will be forthcoming.

I started and abandoned Zealot (not because of the controversy, but because I could not sustain interest. I kind of want my $13 back). I also abandoned but not forever, Chase the Wild Pigeons, a civil war book. I adore historical fiction, I just wasn’t in the mood for this one. I will finish it eventually, if only because the first part has to do with a prank in an outhouse. Those are always funny, unless they’re happening to me.

jenniferWhat did you read? What are you reading now? What’s the best book you remember reading in the summer?

Jennifer Luitwieler writes about faith, family and running at her site. Her first book, Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo, was published in September, 2011 (Civitas Press). She is a Pittsburgh transplant who, after nearly 18 years in Tulsa, OK, still clings to her Ohio Valley roots, though each of her three children are Okies, born and bred. She and her husband homeschool two of the three and run their fall weekends by the Pittsburgh Steelers schedule. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.